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It’s a Man’s World: How to Navigate a Male Dominated Space/Industry as a Female or Non-Binary Creative

Despite the many advances that have been made in the workplace (yes to the Mad Men office aesthetics but not its ethics) it still can often give off a boys-club feel. This applies to many industries from STEM sectors to even photography – in 2019 4.2% of photos published in French newspaper Le Monde were taken by female photographers.

A recent Cornell University study has shown that women in male-dominated careers face a multitude of challenges including lack of support (emotional and financial) and mistreatment leading to feelings of incompetency and lacking a voice. 

As for non-binary, femme queer and trans peoples, oftetimes their mere existence in the workplace is challenged on a daily basis. Earlier this year, research from YouGov and Totaljobs found that 43% of trans employees have quit a job because their work environment was unwelcoming. Over half (54%) of employees said their employers don’t support trans employees through training and only 36% of workplaces have dedicated anti-trans discrimination policies. Nearly two thirds (65%) of respondents said they’ve had to hide their trans status at work.

However, our mission here isn’t to present you with a bunch of depressing statistics further demonstrating everything that is systematically wrong with this often close-minded society but instead to provide even just a smidge of direction in regards to how we can overcome these problems and navigate professional spaces even with superiors and peers doubting our voice. 

  1. Knowledge is power – and you know your stuff!
    Of course, it’s never just as simple as “work is work and play is play” however, work is primarily a place to apply your knowledge in a way that can provide solutions and encourage creativity. Knowledge is power – especially in a male-dominated field. Knowing so much about such a male-dominated field as a femme person automatically should be a sense of empowerment and accomplishment.
  2. Find a community to support you
    Whether its our friend Bukky’s Female Techpreneur (a community for any femme people in tech) or Midline Trans + (an emotional and mental health support helpline for queer people and their colleagues and families) find an organisation that looks out for you. If there are other femme and/or non-binary and trans people in your workplace, ask them to join if that feels right! Creating this sense of unity and community confidence is so important in creating a sense of belonging. 
  3. Who are your role models?
    Role models are the inspiring people we look to who are sure to bring a surge of confidence on even the darkest of days. If you’re a young, hispanic actress look to the likes of Salma Hayek and Rita Moreno, female photographers can look to Nadia Lee Cohen, trans creatives can look to modern icons like Arca, non-binary makeup artists can admire the success of Jonathan Van Ness. If they can make it, why can’t you also deserve the world? 
  4. Find your male allies
    Not all straight men are trash! Some are actually pretty cool and respectful and can make sure your voice gets heard. Unfortunately, where a male dominated room may be more keen to lend an ear to your male co-worker, having him as an ally can ensure that you have the support needed for your idea to be heard. The fact that this is even necessary is absolutely ridiculous and needs to end but as we know, we don’t live in a perfect world and sometimes these little pushes are necessary to make revolutionary changes towards a more open workspace. 
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